Former Phil Campbell Elementary principal Jackie Ergle celebrates her retirement with faculty and staff at PCES.

‘Heart for children’ – PCES principal celebrates retirement

By Bart Moss / For the FCT

Instead of relaxing after a first full week of school, Jackie Ergle celebrated her retirement with family, friends and colleagues Saturday.

Ergle, longtime principal at Phil Campbell Elementary School, said last week was hard on her for one reason: not seeing the children every day.

“I have already missed being a part of the opening of school and seeing all those smiling kids get off the buses in the morning,” said Ergle. “I miss my staff. We all worked so closely and so well together. I just miss the whole realm of it. I loved my job. It becomes your life.”

There is no doubt the feeling was mutual from the many who joined the celebration at the Phil Campbell Community Center.

Kathy Canida, who worked with Ergle for more than 30 years, said she believes love of the community had a lot to do with the way Ergle approached her job.

“Mrs. Ergle just loves this community and all the people, and it showed in her leadership style,” said Canida. “She had a heart for the children. She made sure all children felt loved and accepted. She was kind and good to the parents.”

Canida also said Ergle made her staff feel special, too. “She was always good to show appreciation for her faculty in a very personal way. She knew how to find people’s strengths and put them in the right position to be successful.”

Sherri Stancil worked for Ergle for 20 years and also extolled Ergle’s impact on her staff and students.

“She had a huge impact on all the teachers, parents and kids,” said Stancil. “She helped us teachers become the best teachers we could be, encouraging us to keep learning and get better and better.”

Stancil also said Ergle’s keen focus her students helped her be so successful.

“She knows the children,” said Stancil. “We average about 460 students, and she knows them all by name. She loves them all, prays for them and worries about them.”

Laura Voyles has worked side-by-side with Ergle for 15 years as the school’s counselor and saw firsthand how she made decisions.

“I’ve worked for a lot of principals, and she’s been one of the best,” said Voyles. “She manages with her heart. There was a lot of thought and heart that went into every decision made because, in the end, she had the kids’ best interest at heart. That’s what made her unique.

“But the bottom line was her patience and compassion which showed through working with the little kids and us big kids – the faculty.”

Kelly Champion worked with Ergle for 17 years and said she appreciated Ergle’s commitment to helping her staff learn and grow.

“She would always introduce us to a book at the start of the year,” said Champion. “There was always a lot of thought that went into the book she would introduce, and there was a lot of meaning for all of us as teachers. She was kind, caring and compassionate to her staff and students. We were a family.”

Joyce Cartee has been best friends with Ergle since high school and has worked as the school’s secretary for four years. She had an up-close and personal view of Ergle’s approach toward people.

“Jackie is a very selfless person,” said Cartee. “She always puts everyone else first. She is kind-hearted and sweet-spirited. She always gives kids hugs, and I told her once that the hug she gave some of the children might be the only one they ever get.”

Terry Welborn, who serves as on the Franklin County Board of Education and represents the Phil Campbell area, said he never had to worry about Phil Campbell Elementary School because he knew Ergle had the right motivations.

“Mrs. Ergle was a great principal, and she is going to be missed,” said Welborn. “Every decision she made was in the best interest of the children. I trusted her fully. She knew what her goals were, and that’s why I think she was over the best elementary school in the county.”

Ergle said she plans to spend more of her newly discovered “free time” focusing on her two children, two grandchildren and her husband. She has some other goals she wants to pursue, especially in music – but she’s not separating from education entirely.

“I’ve already signed up to be a substitute teacher,” said Ergle. “Maybe that will help the transition. It’s hard to move on from something you loved so much and devoted your life to.

“Kids love you unconditionally. That’s what I will miss the most.”

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